Saturday, June 26, 2010

PRICELESS: Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Race

2009 Seattle Half Marathon during Chemo? 3:12:45.

2010 Seattle Half Marathon without Chemo? 2:40:41.

Still alive to run a great race with TNT & LIVESTRONG friends today?


Today's race was all about celebrating life and enjoying each moment of running. Last year, I ran the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon while I was doing chemotherapy to treat my cancer. There was a group of friends that stuck by my side to ensure I finished it -- and trust me, they endured some of my most brilliant "bite me" moments, weakness and frustration. As friends, runners and fellow cancer warriors -- they knew I could do it. (And, they actually remained friends with me later, which is cool.)

(Looking back, it makes me realize that it probably wasn't the smartest thing I've ever done -- but it was what I needed to do to fight. Thanks, Coach Bill, for helping me pull it off -- both in getting me through last year's race, and helping me with a year of recovery and training so I could keep on using my running with TNT as a personal way to fight back. Means the world to me.)

Today, I went back to run the Seattle RNR Half Marathon. I couldn't leave unfinished business with that course -- and trust me, it had whopped me good last year. Today's mission was just to enjoy myself, look for bald eagles and look at the lake, -- and, remember that it's not about that finish line, but the journey taking oneself to it. And for that reason alone, it was a special day.

This race was for, and about, all my favorite cancer warriors. Last night, I wrote Ty's name on my bib (a.k.a. Captain Cure artist), as he just finished his 1st chemo of his recurrent cancer. I talked to him on the phone last night, and have to say that I'm honored to have him in my life. He was speaking at the Relay For Life's Luminary event today, so I missed him, but he ran all 13.1 miles with me in spirit. Ty, you are a true warrior, and we're all behind you.

This morning, I was texting and texting...and then texting some more, to ensure I met up with first-time marathoner and a member of Team LIVESTRONG, Amanda H. She's a fellow LIVESTRONG grassroots supporter hailing from Kansas City (Rock Chalk Jayhawks!!). We met at the 2008 LIVESTRONG Summit, but haven't seen each other since! Today, I had the honor to connect up with her at the starting line (and of course, text back and forth after our finishes).

Of course, I couldn't imagine running this race without my San Diego Team in Training teammates. Last year, so many of them got me through this race, so it was emotional, exciting and well, just plain all get together to run it again. From the starting line through the finish line, we had fun telling stories, running in silence, slowing down when I was processing a few rough moments in thinking about last year's chemo race and smiling BIG when we split off from the marathoners (happy with our choice to only run the half this year). Huge thanks to Erin McK & Kim L. for running with me today & sharing such a big celebration! Today's race was just plain ol' fashion FUN.

I also love surprises -- and right as we hit the 26 mile marker, I ran into a personal *surprise* spectator...a dear friend that came to cheer me in. (Thanks, T.) It was like icing on the top of the cupcake! (I love cupcakes, too.)

At the finish line, I met up with my girl, Ensley E. (a.k.a. Enz) who is one of the most amazing Cures Rock! warriors and sweetest folks that I know. She fights like hell to make sure we find a cure for cancer -- which is something I deeply love about her.

I also met up with a fellow blogger, Art R. (Racn 4 A Cure blog) and fellow TNT teammate from Virginia. After a year of blogging about cancer survivorship and running/racing to find a cure, we finally met in person. Art, you are amazing -- keep up the inspiration!!

As you can see -- the race today wasn't about the finish line. Life is short. It truly is not about the "outcomes," but about the race and journey along the way. In fact, as we headed into the finish line chute today, I asked my girlfriends to slow down. I wanted to soak in every last minute of this journey and live in the moment. Who knows what life brings any of us or what the next year holds. However, I can tell you this, if you take the time to live in the moment, to appreciate the souls around you, to do something for someone else -- and to live each day as though it's your last -- life will take on a whole new perspective.

Congrats to everyone that ran in today's race. A special thank you to all cancer warriors raising funds and racing for a cure. CURES ROCK!

1. Bib - running in honor of B & Ty.
2. Coach Bill, the Coach that helped me believe that running a marathon after cancer WAS possible.
3. Meeting up with fellow LIVESTRONG-er and Summit Delegate, Amanda, at the starting line.
4. Me, Kim & Erin running on the freeway overlooking Seattle.
5. Ensley and me at the finish line.
6. Julie (Cures Rock! blogger) & Art (Racn 4 a Cure blogger) meet up at the finish line and show off our fundraising "rock star" jerseys.

Friday, June 18, 2010

First Connections & Lasting Friendships

I'll leave it up to LLS to share my story, but it was certainly fun to see this article on the LLS Blog today.

It's about my first connection with a peer that was also going through AML leukemia treatment years ago. Turns out her husband works where I work (and worked for Mike, the runner that ran on my behalf when I was first diagnosed). We don't live in different states like the article fact, I work in the city she lives in. But the rest of the story is right on...after all these years, we still missed each other at the race!!
Cori is a pretty amazing person, and it was a huge help to be able to virtually chat with someone about the fight we were going through. Cori, you rock. Cures Rock!
Cori P. & my twin, Angie -- at the finish line of their half marathon. This is the pic they texted me while I was still out running the full marathon. I was so excited to know they had found each other out there!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Failure is Not an Option

A few folks have emailed and asked me what got me through my 5th marathon last week. One word = FINO.


Yes, I realize I have "borrowed" this phrase from the Apollo XIII mission, but it's what has seen me through some tough cancer battles...and sometimes equally tough marathons. You see...the whole Apollo XIII drama starts with the simple statements:

Swigert: 'Okay, Houston, we've had a problem here.'
Duke: 'This is Houston. Say again please.'
Lovell: 'Uh, Houston, we've had a problem.'

Ok, so, I didn't have a cyrogenic oxygen tank explode -- but I did have to hear the words, "You have cancer." And years ago, as I stared at my doctor, I suddenly found myself thinking,... "Houston, we have a problem."

As the history books reflect (at least in the movie), as Apollo XIII approached the critical earth-to-moon decision loop, Gene Kranz (the lead flight director) announced to his crew in Houston :

"Failure is not an option."

Somehow, this all made sense in my cancer battling world -- and seems to translate to the world of marathoning for me now. Yes, I do wonder if Kranz had meant that failure had been an option at one time but wasn't any more??? The mission was beyond testing physical limits. It was far more than testing athletic endurance or engineering prowess. It was an unfolding study in problem solving --- a solution-finding, keep-the-faith-against-all-odds sort of spectacularly rare, defining moment.

My sisters and I were trolling through some old slides, and this one of the three of us visiting my dad in his aerospace engineering work days made me smile (see pic). Yes, this past weekend, as I ran my 5th marathon (3rd marathon this year!), the word "FINO" was written in indelible marker on my arm in huge letters. I draw on the strength of that statement in tough moments. You see, creativity and the willingness to solve life-threatening problems doesn't always have to be inspired by a "muse." Sometimes it's a sheer force of reaction that is triggered when all else fails, when you hit the "dark night of the soul."

Over the past few years, I've found that it's those moments in my life, when *everything* is at stake and failure is possible (but not an option, of course) --- when our assumptions about life are being challenged and how things "should be" just won't work anymore -- it is then that we launch new plans...

Kranz said, "Forget the flight plan. From this moment on we are improvising a new mission. How do we get our men home?"

For all of you out there hearing those words, "You have cancer" --- or for those that have heard it before --- or for those running your first marathon races --- just remember, "FINO." While you may have to adjust to the challenges of a tough situation, learn to forget your current flight plan. It's easier to quit (but don't). I've found that tough and unexpected moments can evoke such creative change in our lives, but only if we're not allowed to "abort the mission." Launch a new mission in your life, and dream bigger than you could ever imagine.


(From L to R) Me, Jenny & Angie at my dad's aerospace work as kids.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Guinness World Record Officially Certified!

What an amazing day. Mike Sheehy was officially certified as the new Guinness World Record "Most Amount of Miles Run in One Week" and received the award at the end of the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon!!! True to his spirit and promise, he immediately donated the award to the San Diego/Hawaii Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). Over $42,000 (and counting) was raised by these efforts.

A bunch of other personal records (P.R.'s) were set this week by a few thousand other runners that trained and ran their first marathons, also raising funds for LLS through their Team in Training Program. I know there were a few of my blog readers that apologized for "only" give a few dollars to my crazy adventures -- but I wanted to share with you how amazing those dollars add up -- they DO make a difference. 4,000 runners raised funds for LLS and together (for this event alone) they raised a collective $12 Million!!! THANK YOU! (There were 30,000 runners on the course today --- maybe next year, we'll have a third of those athletes raising for charity! Maybe one of them will be you!!)

Today was National Cancer Survivor's Day, so I'd like to thank everyone that has helped, cheered and donated to support the LLS. I am alive today, and this organization's research and patient services has a huge part in that reason. (THANK YOU, LLS!!)

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. So I'll leave the rest of my blog up to them to describe this amazing race day (yup, I'm was one hot, humid day out on that race course today...).

2010 San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon:


1. Jenna K. (LLS Director) and Mike S. show off the new Guinness World Record!
2. Starting line (from L to R): Julie, Karin, Pat, Erin, Mike & Enz!
3. Julie, Jeanette & Erin strike a pose with the infamous TNT cheerleaders along highway 163! (We love them every year!)
4. The wonder twins with their medals...celebrating National Cancer Survivor's Day!
5. Twitter pals, Julie (TNT San Diego) and Marvin (TNT L.A.) share a fun "tweet up" moment
6. Mike & Jules at the finish line of the SD RNR Marathon
7. Enough said. Thanks to all that donned the "Cures Rock!" temp tattoos during the race!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Speechless: GWR Day 6.

It's hard to write a blog post when one is speechless. Today was one of those days made up of the stuff that dreams are made was surreal and one of the most special days.

Today, I watched Mike run past the current record and unofficially break the GWR record! The official GWR auditor comes tomorrow, but it doesn't matter. In my book, Mike has won. I am proud, humbled, amazed and honored to know him....and touched that he'd even spend a moment with me today. He makes me believe we WILL cure cancer. He makes me believe I WILL stay in remission.

I came away from this moment tonight speechless and reflective. I walked away from the crowds and sat by Mission Bay watching the fireworks (I've nicknamed "Mike's Fireworks") above the surface of the water and waited for him to come back to the hotel.

I promise I will write more about the Guinness World Record Attempt tomorrow, but for tonight, I think I'm just going to smile and go to bed. Instead of sadly attempting to capture this day in words, I am going to soak up every moment of this excitement and awe first.

1. Mike spraying the crowd with a Guinness beer to celebrate "unofficially" beating the record
2. The fireworks across the bay at Sea World...a.k.a. Mike's fireworks tonight.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It's a draw...

"The only way to achieve the impossible is to
believe it is possible." -Alice in Wonderland

Today was a long and tough day out there on the Guinness World Record Attempt course. Mike had it tough as the day turned into night...and he was still out there running. I had to work all day, so I couldn't get out there to see him until afterwards, but he still had a few hours to run.

By the time I got there, I saw a road-weary friend so I admit that a part of me was worried. Not about whether or not he'd finish (I knew he would), but about his body. Until I saw him run in -- If you haven't seen Mike run in smooth, ultrarunner, gazelle like strides, you are missing out on something amazing. The headlamps came out, Mike narrowed the team of runners on the course once it got dark, and we all waited to see him finish, staring into the darkness to look for any sign of a neon vest. When we saw them, there were cheers.

When Mike stopped for a second, I said, "Way to kick cancer's ass, Mike!!!" which was followed by claps from all those around the finish line. He smirked, shook his head wearily and said, "Today, I think it was more of a draw."

While I realize that Mike's too busy running to read my blog this week -- I'm still going to post a reminder about how this is nowhere near a draw. A star burns up it's very essence to bring light to others. It may have been a tough day, but Mike, you are bringing hope and inspiration to cancer fighters, survivors and families everywhere. You're raising thousands of dollars in the name of finding a cure for cancer (by the way, folks, click here to please help donate to LLS & help us reach the GWR goal!!). THAT is not a draw. THAT IS KICKING CANCER'S ASS. Sure, it's a tough day. But, you're helping us win this war on this freakin' stupid, deadbeat disease. For that, I am grateful more than you'll ever comprehend.

I thought I'd post a few reminders of the lives you've touched that are at the receiving end of those dollars you're raising. Perhaps these cancer fighters & survivors will provide a little inspiration for your run tomorrow. CURES ROCK. You are a rock STAR, Mike. Keep on truckin', my friend.

1. Julie (Leuk survivor) & Grant (TNT Honored Teammate & 3 yrs old Leuk patient) *Hog wild!*
2. Best reception...ever. Talk about a family that kicked cancer's bootie!
3. Red. Need I say more?
4. The Gong at Cardons Children's Hospital

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Happy Birthday, my friend.

Today was the 38th birthday of my friend, Mike. No, seriously, don't stop reading this blog me, he's awesome. I deeply wish that everyone had a friend just like him. Which, I admit, would probably be impossible because Mike is one of those special rock stars in life.

Today was not only Mike's birthday, but it was Day 4 of his Guinness World Record (GWR) attempt -- which, by the way, he's running in order to help raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). To date, ~$35,000 has been raised for this attempt...and his new goal is $38,000 (after all, he's 38 today) -- so, if you'd like to wish him a happy birthday...*hint*hint*....go to the GWR web site and donate $38...$380...or $3800! Get my point?

A sports writer called today who's writing an article on Mike's attempt at the GWR. Can't blame him...Mike's doing amazing things with his running gift. *karma points*

He asked me the typical questions...and then the writer faltered, re-phrased his question a few times, and then finally said, "I have to know... what emotions do you feel to know that Mike started all of this in support of you..." He, of course, made the caveat that he understands that Mike's mission is so much bigger now in this fight against cancer....but how did I feel about having someone do something like this originally years ago for me?...

Wow. I was speechless. Nobody has ever asked me that question. Here's my answer: I'm tremendously grateful, extremely humbled and honored to have a friend like Mike. The cancer community as a whole is better off for having him as an advocate. I think he's amazing. (And, yes, I'm biased.) We talked about how it would make sense if Mike were doing this for a family member or something...but for a friend and coworker? Even more unusual. At that point, I believe the writer began to understand the type of person that Mike is and the passion he has to fight cancer.

So, today, I wish Mike a happy birthday. You are a warrior with a heart of gold. I know you'll break this Guinness World Record. I know you'll reach your fundraising goal for LLS. On behalf of cancer survivors everywhere -- thank you. I am alive because of the funds you've raised. Maybe someday, ...that "lucky dollar" you keep searching for, will fund the research that will help find a cure for cancer so I can stop looking over my shoulder and find peace that it'll never come back. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Lance Armstrong's "Tour de France" Dedication to Julie

A great reminder that I had armies of support beside me in my fight. (Thanks, Lance!) Even with the recent media, this video isn't about the bike...but the fight against cancer. LIVESTRONG!

Stage 2 Dedication: Julie Westcott -- powered by

Guinness World Record Broken to Fight Cancer

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Donate & fight to kick cancer to the curb!

500 Miles. 17 days. 2 States. 1 Mission to Cure Cancer.

500 Miles. 17 days. 2 States. 1 Mission to Cure Cancer.
January 1 - 17, 2010
All Content and Images (unless specified otherwise), Copyright Cures Rock! 2007-2012.